Seahawks: Tariq Woolen Already Ranks Among The Best NFL CBs And Deserves DROY

Dec 4, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen (27) celebrates after intercepting a pass intended for Los Angeles Rams running back Kyren Williams (23) during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen (27) celebrates after intercepting a pass intended for Los Angeles Rams running back Kyren Williams (23) during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Tariq Woolen has taken the NFL world by storm as a rookie for the Seattle Seahawks. The No. 153 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft has proven to be a steal, currently leading the pack for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Not only that, Woolen already ranks as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.

Tariq Woolen started as a wide receiver in college, before flipping over to the defensive side of the ball and becoming a lockdown cornerback. Woolen uses his knowledge of the wide receiver position against opposing pass catchers, showcasing an otherworldly ability to mirror every movement his assignment makes.

The route mirroring can get cornerbacks in trouble, but Woolen’s legendary recovery speed makes up for any missteps in coverage. Unsurprisingly, the UTSA product boasts elite ball skills due to his background offensively. Woolen put these traits on tape, but NFL scouts focused too much on the negatives, rather than using his athletic profile to project what Woolen could become with NFL coaching.

Even after the 6-foot-4, 210-pound defender put on a show in front of every team at the NFL Scouting Combine, recording one of the fastest 40-yard dash times ever, it still wasn’t enough to vault Woolen up NFL Draft boards. In retrospect, it is puzzling how no one was willing to take the chance on molding Tariq Woolen into a superstar.

On top of Woolen’s one-of-one athletic profile, he also possesses the intensity and hunger to improve that all the greats before him had. Due to his limited experience at cornerback, Woolen is still learning the nuances of the position to this day. The amazing part is, even as he is growing, Woolen is already an elite NFL cornerback anyway.

Another aspect that stuck out to me during the NFL Draft process was Woolen’s supreme confidence in himself and his abilities. Sauce Gardner dominated the headlines with his quotes, but one quote from Woolen should have been looked at more.

The Draft Network’s Justin Melo asked Woolen, “What do you feel sets you apart from the other top-ranked cornerbacks in this draft class?” Woolen’s answer shows exactly the type of guy he is:

"Shoot, I’ve only been playing the cornerback position for two years. A lot of these other cornerbacks in this draft class have been playing cornerback, or other defensive positions their entire lives. Most of them at least played cornerback throughout their entire collegiate careers. I didn’t do that. Those guys may look polished or whatever, but I’ve only been playing cornerback for two years and I’ve accomplished things at the position like a veteran would. I have so much trust, confidence, and faith in my abilities at cornerback.When I get drafted and get an opportunity to work alongside a great coaching staff, I’m so excited for the opportunity to continue honing my craft. I feel like I’ll be the best cornerback when we look back on this class a couple of years from now. Knowing my traits, knowing what I’m capable of, I feel extremely confident about the process I’m going through right now. I’m excited to work alongside an NFL coaching staff. I feel like I can be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in a few years’ time."

I already had a first-round grade on Tariq Woolen before this interview, but it solidified my top 25 ranking by hearing this. It echoes the sentiment that I had during the evaluation process. There are a ton of guys out there that know the technical side of things, but you cannot teach them how to be 6-foot-4, 210 pounds with 4.2 speed. Plain and simple.

On the other hand, when you see a genuinely generational athlete and add it to who he is as a person, you can teach him to be the best cornerback in the NFL. Woolen has improved exponentially since the start of the 2022 season but is nowhere near the player he should be in a couple of years. That should terrify NFL franchises everywhere.

Tariq Woolen is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with six, including an exciting pick-six against the Detroit Lions that allowed him to flex his run after the catch chops. The Roadrunner alum allows one of the lowest passer ratings in the league, with a slew of impressive pass breakups on his resume.

Getting selected by the Seattle Seahawks was the ideal destination for Woolen. Pete Carroll’s staff has a long track record of developing late-round prospects into key contributors to their roster. Former Seahawk icon Richard Sherman quickly took Woolen under his wing, proclaiming that Seattle had found another fifth-round steal at cornerback, just like they did with Sherman in 2011.

The Defensive Rookie of the Year chase has a few names rivaling Tariq Woolen for the top spot. The aforementioned Sauce Gardner is the co-favorite in betting odds right now, with No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson making a late charge for the award. As great as these two top-five picks have been as rookies, we must factor in that Woolen went 149 picks after either of them; that should bolster his case.

It will forever be mind-boggling how 31 NFL teams could miss on a player this badly. Heck, even the Seahawks passed on Woolen numerous times before selecting him in the fifth round! The evaluation process is an imperfect one, but the league really overthought Tariq Woolen and his potential on Sundays.

Now, the Seattle Seahawks get to sit back and reap the benefits. Tariq Woolen is not content with a Defensive Rookie of the Year trophy. He is not content being “the best rookie from the 2022 NFL Draft”. The budding star at cornerback will not be content until his name is up there with the all-time greats. And well, he is on the way to doing just that.